COUNCIL officials in Hartlepool welcomed the Government’s 'roadmap' for easing Covid-19 restrictions and called on local residents to help ensure it isn’t knocked off course.

They say it is vital that people continue to follow the rules so that target dates can be met.

Councillor Shane Moore, Leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “The Government’s announcement has given us all a tantalising glimpse into a future that offers us a return to normal life sooner rather than later.

“However, ministers have made it clear that their blueprint is dependent upon a number of factors, including that infection rates do not lead to a surge in hospital admissions and the vaccination programme continues to go to plan and proves effective in reducing the number of hospitalisations and deaths.”

“I would like to thank everyone for their support that has enabled us to reach this point, but we must all continue to follow the rules to ensure that there is no resurgence of the virus which could force the Government into a re-think.”

The first milestone is March 8 when all schools and colleges are due to re-open and the next key date is March 29 when people will be allowed to meet outside, either with one other household or within the 'rule of six', including in private gardens.

Stage 2 of the easing of restrictions which is scheduled to begin no earlier than April 12, will see all shops allowed to open along with 'close contact services' such as hairdressers and beauty salons. Restaurants and pub gardens will be allowed to serve customers sitting outdoors.  

Stage 3 is scheduled for no earlier than May 17, whilst the fourth and final stage, pencilled in for no earlier than June 21 will see the lifting of all legal limits on social contact.

Craig Blundred, Hartlepool’s Director of Public Health, said that whilst infection rates have come down in recent weeks, they still remain uncomfortably high.

He said: “I too would like to thank local people for their support in tackling the virus to date, but now is not the time to become complacent.

“In particular, please remember hands, face and space, as even small steps save lives. It is vitally important that we all take these basic safety precautions but we need to do it as a collective measure – it is not a case of one or the other.”